The Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 13:1 (Winter 2000)
Article: The Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Author: Bryant G. Wood


The Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Bryant G. Wood

An ancient cave discovered in the fourth century was believed at the time to be the Tomb of Christ. For the past 1700 years it has been venerated, damaged and restored. As preparation for coming restoration, Martin Biddle was asked to record the tomb as it is today. Bryant Wood reviews the results of Biddle’s investigation published in 1999.

The original tomb of Christ, as reconstructed by Martin Biddle, sectional side view (left) and top plan (right). It was comprised of a small forecourt, a low entry passage, and a burial chamber with benches on three sides.

There are two locations in the Old City of Jerusalem claiming to be the Tomb of Christ: the Garden Tomb 100 m (110 yd) northwest of the Damascus Gate, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter. While the Garden Tomb has no ancient tradition associated with it, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has a tradition going back to the earliest centuries of Christianity. In his The Tomb of Christ, Martin Biddle has traced the history of the Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the Gospels to the present day.

Biddle is Professor of Medieval Archaeology and Astor Senior Research Fellow and Tutor in Archaeology at Hereford College, Oxford. Since 1986 he has been researching the Tomb to lay groundwork for a major restoration of the Edicule, the small structure built around the Tomb. It is anticipated that much new information will be gained in the course of the restoration.

The Tomb from AD 30 to 135

Scripture tells us that Jesus was buried in a new tomb hewn out of rock (Mt 27:60; Mk 15:46; Lk 23:53; Jn 19:41). It was in a garden near the crucifixion site (Jn 19:41) and outside, although not far from, the city (Jn 19:20; Heb 13:12). In addition, the entrance was low and sealed with a stone (Jn 20:11; Mt 27:60; Mk 15:46), and on the right side it was possible to sit where the body of Jesus had lain (Jn 20:12).

A number of first-century tombs have been excavated in the Jerusalem area and they conform to the description in the Gospels: a rock-cut tomb with a l...

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